Like Crazy is one of those indie movies that garnered a great amount of buzz from last year’s Sundance Film Festival and I just don’t really see why. The basis for any romantic movie to work is an appealing central couple and we are never really given one in this film by writer-director Drake Doremus. Felicity Jones was praised for her performance and rightfully so, but her co-star, Anton Yelchin, is so low key he is barely there. Their chemistry is nearly non-existent and their underdeveloped characters prevent this romantic drama from being more than intermittently cloying.
Our two lovebirds, Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones), meet-cute as college students at UCLA. The two soon fall in love and are so idyllically perfect for each other (or so we are told) that Jacob builds her an ugly, uncomfortable-looking chair and she oozes with joy. But by the end of their senior year, the two must face a life-shattering obstacle: Two months of being away from each other because Anna’s student visa is about to expire. Rather than trying to do the impossible, she decides to break the law and overstay her visit. When she is subsequently not allowed to reenter the US a few weeks later, our love-stricken pair must embark on a passionate and sometime exhausting quest to be together once again. This is what I call real drama!
Like Crazy is the latest in this recent trend of romantic dramas depicting the flaws and vulnerability of young love. It is much less The Notebook and much more Blue Valentine if you catch the drift. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that but unlike these aforementioned movies, Jacob and Anna’s central romance, though cute, is superficial and unexciting. Doremus reportedly went into filming with 60 pages of notes and no script, relying on his two lead actors to improvise off each other but this resulted in such low-key characters that it was sometimes frustrating to watch their lack of chemistry and passion. If the characters are so hopelessly in love as it is suggested throughout the movie, where was the sense of urgency needed to convey that?
Had I been Anton Yelchin, I would have moved heaven and earth to do what needed to be done! He is a likable actor but his performance here mostly consists of him looking gloomy, longingly staring into the distance or drawing more ugly chairs in his notebook. His character could well be the male version of Bella Swan because he is nearly as much of a blank sheet. This leaves Felicity Jones having to carry nearly all the emotional heft of the movie, a feat she somehow manages to accomplish. She rises above the tepid material, giving a much more substantial and compelling turn than her co-star, maybe because she is naturally so adorable.
However, the main issue I had with the movie can be retraced to one aggravating decision: The movie nearly immediately starts with a montage of the couple falling in love. All the excitement, passion, chemistry and reasons for the protagonists to be together are condensed into a two-minute montage. For me, most of the appeal of watching this kind of romantic sap is getting to know the protagonists. A lot of execution flaws can be forgiven when you care for the central couple but I need to feel something. Sadly, not only did the narrative cut to the chase way too early but it severely hampered my desire to grow fond of the characters.
This is not to say Like Crazy doesn’t have moments that just click. The film proceeds along pleasantly enough when the two lovers are actually communicating. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to happen very often whether they are sitting right next to each other or being a half-globe apart. A rare poignant instance results in Jones tearfully joking on the phone that Yelchin should just “drop by” her place, and he replies he will be there in half an hour even though she is thousands of miles away.
Drake Doremus’ over-reliance on montages and the lack of solid direction prevents Like Crazy from being more than an oddly contrived and shallow attempt to depict a realistic romance.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think?